Advice from the Masters: Christopher Hitchens

Dec 21, 2011 | Better Writing

Christopher Hitchens died earlier this week. Here’s the opening paragraph from the New York Times obituary.

Christopher Hitchens, a slashing polemicist in the tradition of Thomas Paine and George Orwell who trained his sights on targets as various as Henry Kissinger, the British monarchy and Mother Teresa, wrote a best-seller attacking religious belief, and dismayed his former comrades on the left by enthusiastically supporting the American-led war in Iraq, died on Thursday in Houston. He was 62.”

Hitchens was a journalist, columnist, literary critic, and essayist. He was the sole author of twenty books on a wide range of topics. He co-authored other books and contributed to still others. Throughout, he was unfailingly provocative in a wonderfully literate way.

He had strong opinions on just about everything. Here’s his comment on whether everyone has a book in them.

“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”

I agree with him. You may think that’s a little strange, since my business is helping people get a book written, published, and sold. The truth is that I only want to work on projects that are intended to produce a great book.

There are already too many weakly conceived and poorly written books out there. Why contribute to the pollution? The book that matters is not the book that’s in you. The book that matters is the book that is well planned and well written and that makes a difference out in the world.

That kind of book may start with “the book that’s in you,” but it takes commitment and learning and work to turn it into a book that makes a difference.

Want more? Check out the complete list of Advice from the Masters posts.

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